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A Preliminary Analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa


  • Nic Spaull

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)


The many and varied links between student socio-economic status and educational outcomes have been well documented in the South African economics of education literature. The strong legacy of apartheid and the consequent correlation between education and wealth have meant that, generally speaking, poorer students perform worse academically. The present study uses the recent Southern and East African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ III) dataset for South Africa to identify those factors that have a significant effect on student maths and reading performance in Grade 6. The research confirms previous findings that socio-economic status, and particularly school socioeconomic status, is important when understanding student success or failure. Other factors which contribute significantly to student performance are homework frequency, preschool education, and the availability of reading textbooks. In contrast, teacher-subject knowledge was found to have only a modest impact on Grade 6 student performance. Policy interventions are also highlighted. The study concludes that South Africa is still a tale of two schools: one which is wealthy, functional and able to educate students, while the other is poor, dysfunctional, and unable to equip students with the necessary numeracy and literacy skills they should be acquiring in primary school. Nevertheless, it suggests that there are some options available to policy-makers which are expected to have a positive effect on student performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Nic Spaull, 2011. "A Preliminary Analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa," Working Papers 11/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers139

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Servaas BERG & Onelle BURGER, 2003. "Education And Socio-Economic Differentials: A Study Of School Performance In The Western Cape," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 71(3), pages 496-522, September.
    2. Servaas van der Berg, 2006. "How effective are poor schools? Poverty and educational outcomes in South Africa," Working Papers 06/2006, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Servaas van der Berg, 1999. "Social Policy to Address Poverty," Working Papers 99030, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
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    Cited by:

    1. Servaas van der Berg & Cobus Burger & Ronelle Burger & Mia de Vos & Gideon du Rand & Martin Gustafsson & Eldridge Moses & Debra Shepherd & Nicholas Spaull & Stephen Taylor & Hendrik van Broekhuizen & , 2011. "Low quality education as a poverty trap," Working Papers 25/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Servaas van der Berg, 2015. "What the Annual National Assessments can tell us about learning deficits over the education system and the school career year," Working Papers 18/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Paula Armstrong, 2014. "The impact of teacher characteristics on student performance: An analysis using hierarchical linear modelling," Working Papers 25/2014, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    4. Martin Gustafsson & Stephen Taylor, 2016. "Treating schools to a new administration: Evidence from South Africa of the impact of better practices in the system-level administration of schools," Working Papers 05/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    5. Nicholas Spaull, 2012. "Poverty & Privilege: Primary School Inequality in South Africa," Working Papers 13/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    6. Stephen Taylor & Patricia Watson, 2015. "The impact of study guides on “matric” performance: Evidence from a randomised experiment," Working Papers 13/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    7. Debra Shepherd, 2015. "Learn to teach, teach to learn: A within-pupil across-subject approach to estimating the impact of teacher subject knowledge on South African grade 6 performance," Working Papers 01/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    SACMEQ; South Africa; primary education; education; education production function; education policy; economics of education;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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